Rising From the Ruin

10 07 2014




“For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.”

C.S. Lewis

If I asked you to define a “good gift,” what would you say?

Feel free to press pause on this blog post to ponder that question for a while. It’s an important one. Your answer colors the way you view God and His promises and everything in life that is out of your control. (Which is, by the way, everything in life.)

At this point I could ramble for a few paragraphs about what generally constitutes a good gift, but I hope you won’t mind if I cut to the chase. Because I’ve come to believe with all my heart that God is sovereign over all His hands have made, He is always only perfect love, and everything He chooses for His children is a good gift. Every. Single. Thing.

Suppose He has closed every door you so desperately wanted Him to open. He has pruned your branches with such fury that you look in the mirror and see only the raw stubs of what was once your pride and glory. Your body aches, your wallet is empty, and your relationships are a mess. Your dreams have shattered into a million tiny pieces, and you hold no hope for their restoration.

C.S. Lewis would say now is the time to bless His Name.


We can’t help it. We love comfort, we crave acceptance and approval, we long for success, security, and safety. We view the events of our lives through the grid of our expectations and desires, and we assume the “good and perfect gifts” God promises to give will line up with our personal longings and agendas.

But He loves us too much to give us what we think we want.

In the days and weeks that followed Jacob’s near drowning, I struggled to understand what good purpose God could possibly have in the devastation of his body, brain, and potential. I knew God was right there when Jacob went down, and I knew He could have prevented it. I knew He loved Jacob and had created him for His pleasure and glory. But I didn’t see how any of this could possibly fit into “plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness.”

From where I sat, the future looked unbearably long and hard. But the ripples had already begun.



* * *

For a year and a half after Abby’s birth, Dina and Nurmat kept her condition a secret, even from close friends and ministry supporters. They were both mature Christians and had served as long-time staff with Campus Crusade in Kyrgyzstan. Their faith assured them their daughter was a gift from God, but they knew all too well what other people would think. Even their doctor suggested they place her in an institution. She would only be a burden, he said, and isolate them in a culture where disability is considered a curse or a punishment for sin.

Abby’s birth plunged Dina into a long, dark season of confusion and depression. She and Nurmat had spent years building a ministry in this country — establishing relationships and nurturing trust. Why would God complicate their lives and cripple their ministry by giving them a child with Down Syndrome? It made no sense.

No doubt many well-meaning believers would ask the same question. After all, Dina and Nurmat are uniquely gifted and qualified for the work they’d been doing. He’s a native of Kyrgyzstan and she’s from Kazakhstan. They know the culture and language. They’re intelligent, creative, passionate, and friendly. Years of training, prayer, and discipleship had prepared them for a lifetime of fruitful service.

And then Abby happened.


If we believe that God is the Author of our stories, we must believe that He writes each page with purpose. We may think we know what He is after — why He gave us certain abilities or blessed us with certain opportunities. We may think we know why He calls us into a certain profession or lands us in a certain city. But God is always doing much more than we can begin to fathom. And sometimes the very thing that appears to be our destruction is God’s gracious provision to steer us out of ourselves and into His higher plan.

Abby wasn’t a curse. She was the key to the next door.


And this is where stories collide, and God gives a glimpse into mysteries, and we fall on our faces with the wonder of it all — for His goodness, His grace, His unshakable purposes, and the crazy beautiful way His upside down kingdom busts wide open the narrow confines of our expectations.

Last summer Dina came to Kazakhstan to translate my messages to mothers of disabled children. And as she spoke to them, she spoke to her own soul. Chains fell off. Faint glimmers of hope burst into flame. God ignited a fire in her soul that she carried back home. She’d already begun to seek out other families with DS. Now she took her search to the media, appearing in print and television interviews, providing her personal phone number and welcoming calls.

More than a hundred families have contacted Dina and Nurmat in the past year. They’ve hosted seminars and provided helpful information and resources. The entire thrust of their ministry has shifted to this particular community — many of them Muslims or atheists — all united by a love for someone with Down Syndrome and a desire to make their lives as healthy and happy as possible.

And so, this year when we made our plans to return to Kazakhstan for another special needs camp and mom’s conference, several of us tacked on a few days at the beginning of the trip, and we crossed the border into Kyrgyzstan to conduct a two-day seminar for Dina’s families.

I shared our story, and Lindley — a precious young mom from Memphis whose fourth and youngest son has DS — shared hers. We also spent a lot of time listening to these dear parents and answering their questions. Lindley even had the opportunity to pray with one mom who battles extreme fear for her child’s future. They all received Russian copies of Parting the Waters, and many had begun reading it before our time together ended. Two of those moms followed us back across the border and attended the conference in Kazakhstan.





10449191_10152264014694385_3505579048671367080_nThe two Kyrgyz moms who came to Kazakhstan, Dina, Abby, and Lindley (Lindley’s photo)

And once again Dina translated. In Kyrgyzstan to the dear families she has come to love, and in Kazakhstan to a new group of moms whose stories are yet to be told. Once again she spoke to them, and once again she spoke to herself, and God continues to work as only God can. Doors open, branches thought dead explode with fruit, and the shards of old dreams take new form, pieced by the Master Artist, lovingly set according to His design, catching His light and scattering it like stained-glass laughter on a gray and weary world.



Before we left to return to America, Dina handed me a mug with a map of Kyrgyzstan on it. “From Abby to Jacob,” she said. “Tell him the ripples continue.”

And so they do, quiet, relentless, crossing oceans and language barriers, laden with good gifts from a good God.

Let the ruin fall.

* * *

(Lovely friends,
Please click here if you’d
like to make a donation to
Dina and Nurmat’s ministry.

Thank you!)



19 responses

10 07 2014

Let the ruin fall.
No words.
Just — *thank you*, friend.

11 07 2014

Dearest Ann, full of grace. You are the poster child for beauty from ashes, and how you shine for Him. So very grateful for His light in and through you. Know that you hold a permanent place in my heart and prayers. Much love.

10 07 2014

While I don’t claim to understand it, I love how NOTHING is ever wasted in God’s story. May the ripples continue and continue and continue……..

11 07 2014

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on these posts. Your words encourage. Love to you, Gerrit’s Mom.

12 07 2014
A Holy Experience – Only the Good Stuff: Multivitamins for Your Weekend [07.12.14]

[…] Rising from the Ruin  – Exquisite. And for every single one of us. […]

12 07 2014
Therese Miller Koehler

The words you share with us breath new life into my day…God bless you!

7 08 2014

Thank you, Therese! God bless you, too.

12 07 2014
ro elliott

This is pure beauty… His name has become redeemer to me…and how He longs to come and redeem all with His love and grace…I am memorizing James right now….every good gift…every perfect gift is from above…coming down from the Father of Light with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change… It just makes a heart want to explode with joy to see the redemption…and the ripple effects that flow from that space. True Glory here!!!!!

7 08 2014

Thank you, Ro! I love that verse in James, and I pray for eyes to see those good and perfect gifts, even when they show up in unexpected packages. Yes, His Name is Redeemer. Hallelujah! xo

13 07 2014

So good!

7 08 2014

Thanks, Rudy!

14 07 2014

When Beth was born almost 14 years ago, almost all the books I read about Down syndrome were downers. Then I read a book about a boy nicknamed, Moose. They let Moose define himself. What can’t Beth do? Well, I really don’t care! She is not defined by her disabilities, but by who she is and what she DOES do! I let her define herself.

Later, when her brother was born with Down syndrome, it wasn’t an issue. He had very dark hair, brown eyes and Down syndrome. I had been down this path already for 2 1/2 years. When the NICU doctor joked, that with Down syndrome, everything is down. I didn’t laugh. When he tried to send me home, I wouldn’t go. When his expectations were low, I didn’t accept them.

It took a few days to decide on his name. He’s the only child of our eight that was named after birth. We wanted his name to be a testimony. His name is Ezra Zephaniah. Ezra means helper and Zephaniah means treasure of the LORD. And that is who he is! Each one has a place in our family and in the family of God.

Thank you for sharing! I hope my short story isn’t too long. I just want to encourage others… Down syndrome isn’t bad; it’s not special; but it is different.

7 08 2014

Oh, Sheri! I LOVE your story! Thank you for sharing it with me, and thank you for the beautiful story you’re living for all the world to see. Blessings to you and your treasures!

14 07 2014

What a beautiful and encouraging testimony! God is still writing the pages in our adventure with Down Syndrome and Grace with a big G and a little g ! We adopted her from Ecuador four years ago and couldn’t imagine our lives without her.

7 08 2014

Oh, Anna, what a gift to your family she must be! And what a gift you are to her. You gave her the perfect name. Much love to you and your dear Grace.

9 08 2014

Interestingly the orphanage named her at the hospital. Gods fit to me is that Anna means Grace. We didn’t know this until I was reading Ann Voskamps book two years after adopting her, A gift indeed!

9 08 2014

I love both beautiful names. (Our daughter’s name is Grace, too!)

15 07 2014

This encourages my heart Jeanne. I’ve struggled with gigantic “whys” and longed to make it all work out the way I deemed best – especially for the ones I love more than my own life – handing it all back to Him over and over again. Thank you for sharing this.

7 08 2014

You’re welcome, Linda. I’m so glad this encouraged you. I think the “whys” are normal and God expects them, but I also believe we bring Him so much joy when we choose to trust His bigger purposes and plans even in the midst of our questions. Blessings on your journey, dear friend. Grace to keep handing it all back, no matter how many times it takes. And much love to you.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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